Wary about need-aware

Private colleges should avoid rejecting applicants because of financial need.

Earlier this month, George Washington University admitted to taking requests for financial aid into consideration for admission decisions, misleading applicants with its self-professed “need-blind” status.

The GW Hatchet reported Oct. 21 that the university had publicly admitted “it puts hundreds of undergraduate applicants on its waitlist each year because they cannot pay GW’s tuition.”

Until only very recently, GWU had officially said its admissions policy was need-blind. According to an Inside Higher Ed article, there are only a few private colleges and universities that claim to be need-blind.

It’s unfortunate GWU was dishonest about its admissions policy, but at least now the university is being more transparent about the process. Colleges and universities must be open and honest regarding the factors that go into considering applicants.

While the university deserves to be criticized for hiding the fact that its admissions process is need-aware, a policy that considers financial need should not necessarily be condemned.

Private colleges and universities only have so much money they can budget for financial aid grants, and it is only practical to ensure that there is enough to go around.

However, need-aware universities should avoid making financial decisions for qualified applicants that do not come from wealthy backgrounds. Even if the financial aid budget is tapped out, a university’s admissions department should consider that a student may be willing to attend despite the high financial toll.

No student wants to take on debt from private loans, but higher education provides unique opportunities. George Washington and other need-aware schools should remain wary of rejecting students simply because of financial need.